Rain showers darkened the slow drive down from Como, and little did we know that those ominous storm clouds would follow us for the next several days. Fortunately, no delays were registered at the Milan airport, and Burak’s plane arrived right on time. After some luggage tetris in the car and a look at our map, we began our ascent towards the Switzerland border.

With the rain subsiding, an eerie mist blanketed the skirts of the Alps. The drive climbed through the haze into dense forest, occasionally revealing newly forming waterfalls, and descended, twisting and turning through tiny villages scattered along the mountainside.

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Right after crossing the border
Right after crossing the border

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A lunch of bread, cheese and cured meats, overlooking a village
A lunch of bread, cheese and cured meats, overlooking a village

Each village displayed a unique set of three flags, including the Swiss, along with respective canton and district flags. After a few hours of driving, a new set of flags welcomed us to Arolla, a village in the region of Evolene that, at 1900 meters elevation, is home to the highest camp site in Europe. We set up our tent just as the sun was setting, and soon we were all fast asleep, resting for the long day ahead of us.

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Perfect Fiat commercial
Perfect Fiat commercial

In the morning, the camp site host detailed the surrounding trails for us. All of the hikes were relatively challenging, climbing steep slopes to the summits of the surrounding peaks, so we chose the most moderate to warm up our muscles. “Pas de Chèvres,”  a 7 hour hike ascending 1000 meters, worked its way through long stretches of forest, grassy meadows, streams and rocky slopes.

Beginning the hike at a steady pace, the steepness of the trail increased surprising quickly. Before long, our pace slowed dramatically as we realized we would need to conserve our energy, as well as the limited water we had foolishly under-packed. It was hard to imagine what the other trails were like if this was the most moderate.

As the vegetation slowly died off with the altitude, it was interesting to watch the surroundings change. The first 200 meters went through a dense forest of trees, plants and flowers, home to various little animals.

The beginning of our hike
The beginning of our hike

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At about 2,100 meters elevation, forest abruptly ended, opening up to dirt paths that led through meadows replete with flora and greenery.

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Crossing a stream
Crossing a stream

Very few plants remained at 2,500 meters, where we were greeted by the first snow that still clung to the mountainside. A beautiful glacier appeared in the distance at 2,700 meters, with very few signs of life remaining around us. At this point, our path turned to a rough trail of boulders, rocks and pebbles that scaled the remaining 200 meters to the peak. Dehydrated and drenched in sweat, we took this opportunity to cool down with a small packet of orange juice, saving the half liter of water remaining for the descent.

Glacier in the distance
Glacier in the distance

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Path disappearing among the rocks
Path disappearing among the rocks
View from our water break
View from our water break

About 4 hours and approximately 9 kilometers after beginning our trek, we successfully made it to the peak and celebrated our summit with the breathtaking views:

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Panoramic view
Panoramic view
Summit shot
Summit shot

The hike down the mountain proved to be relaxing and swift, presenting new sights and wildlife along the way:

Elaborate stone on the side of the mountain
Elaborate stone on the side of the mountain
Doesn't seem too happy with our presence
Doesn’t seem too happy with our presence

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Hiding beside the trail
Hiding beside the trail
Final panorama before heading into the woods
Final panorama before heading into the woods

After returning to camp and vigorously hydrating, a well deserved sleep ended our short yet memorable stay in Arolla.

6 Comments

  1. Nice photos! Though I think it’s pretty hard to take a bad shot in that landscape…

  2. Dehydrated? What about the massive stream you cross there? Surely you could tap water from it, or other streams that probably flow there after the rains.

    • Hey Michael, thought about it but didn’t really have the means to clean the water. If you’re suggesting that the water is clean enough to drink as it is, with all of the bulls and other animals that we saw using the stream, thought it better to be safe and wait a few hours.

      • Well, I’ve been drinking from the streams in Switzerland on many occasions and never had any problems. Especially closer to the summit I’d expect streams from the snows to be perfectly clear. And usually, on such a trail, there are many water “taps” near huts and barns, like those on the pictures.

        All in all, I’d say that the dangers of dehydration are probably much higher there than risks of drinking from the streams.

        • That’s a fair point. We weren’t in any serious risk, and a lot of the snow we saw near the stream was sporadicaly dyed red…no taps along our path..as I said, there was no immediate risk so we stuck it out..

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